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Moral Relativism ?? Good, Bad, or ...... ?

 
 
JLNobody
 
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Reply Thu 3 Jun, 2004 10:02 pm
C.I., in reality you're right, but not in my hypothetical case.
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cicerone imposter
 
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Reply Thu 3 Jun, 2004 10:43 pm
Okay.
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joefromchicago
 
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Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2004 08:35 am
JLN: I was willing to give you a pass and not respond to your admitted modification of your previous views -- until, that is, you posted this:

JLNobody wrote:
Oh, and if X stole in order to buy dope, I would condemn him. But I would do so with respect to norms in my head. And I might be ambivalent in my condemnation for a number of possible psychological reasons.

You cannot condemn someone, based upon "the norms in your head," unless you assert that your norms should, in some respect, be his norms as well. And that sets up an objective standard of morality.

If, on the other hand, you're saying that you condemn him not for what he did but for how he made you feel, then you are expressing something akin to an esthetic judgment, not a moral judgment. X's theft of the money for the purposes of buying heroin, then, would be nothing more than an offense against your esthetic sensibilities, not your ethical standards.

JLNobody wrote:
I forgot what our point of disagreement was.

It is that moral relativism provides no basis for saying that some action is either right or wrong (once it does, it ceases being relative). And your psychologically based position is no better. According to your position, JLN, the most we can say about someone else's actions is that we like or don't like them; on the other hand, we cannot say that those actions are either good or bad.

JLNobody wrote:
I acknowledge a public aspect to morality. It is a system of norms held within a society. But I do believe that the system is distributed unevenly across the population of social members. Not everyone has the same pattern of internalized norms, even though every member knows of the normative inventory (its public aspect). In other words its reality lies in the subjective role it plays in guiding and motivating individual behavior. The exception is the psychopath.

The psychopath (or, more properly, the sociopath) is not an exception, he merely represents the logical dead-end of your argument. If we are our own judges of right and wrong, then the sociopath's actions are uniformly right. By your reasoning, then, there is no more moral person than the person who has no moral conscience.
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JLNobody
 
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Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2004 12:04 pm
Someone, on Abuzz, quoted Charlotte Bronte: "Conventionality is not morality." I'm not sure how this may relate to our discussion, but it does suggest that sharing norms with others (conventionality) is not necessarily moral, and having private norms is not necessarily amoral. In any case, I must admit that to me moral sensibilities are more like matters of taste than they are matters of objective fact. Such and such is better than such and such, is a statement of preference, not a statement of "fact" like Texas is south of Canada. And tastes may be shared, codified, and enforcible, or not. When Moses carried the tablets down from Mt.Sinai, he was carrying "god's" tastes and proscriptions, more than he was carrying a list of principles which might assist humans live a better life. Jesus's principle that we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves, was not a moral statement in the procription sense. It was an insight into the nature of enlightened social living. Treat others as subjects not as objects (Buber?). You social pleasure will be enhanced when you perceive others as other forms of YOU. Better send this before the PC freezes.
Oh, it is my impression that "psychopath" has replaced "sociopath."
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joefromchicago
 
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Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2004 12:45 pm
JLNobody wrote:
In any case, I must admit that to me moral sensibilities are more like matters of taste than they are matters of objective fact.

In which case there is no meaningful difference between the statements "the action is good" and "the soup is good."

JLNobody wrote:
Jesus's principle that we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves, was not a moral statement in the procription sense.

It was unquestionably a moral statement.

JLNobody wrote:
Treat others as subjects not as objects (Buber?).

No. Kant.

JLNobody wrote:
Oh, it is my impression that "psychopath" has replaced "sociopath."

Although some conflate the terms (psychiatrists have, by and large, discarded both), I think the distinction is still useful.
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JLNobody
 
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Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2004 01:47 pm
While "the action is good" and "the soup is good" are similar (to me) in reflecting subjective preferences, they are worlds apart, obviously, in other ways, as different as beauty and deliciousness.
How is Jesus' prescription a moral "rule"?
Did Kant argue that people should be treated as ends in themselves rather than as means to ends? And did Buber not argue that people should be seen as subjects (as we see ourselves) rather than objects (as we see things)? My recollection is vague on both counts. But Buber--if I'm right--does show both an influence from Jesus and from Kant. And maybe the Buddha.
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joefromchicago
 
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Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2004 02:52 pm
JLNobody wrote:
While "the action is good" and "the soup is good" are similar (to me) in reflecting subjective preferences, they are worlds apart, obviously, in other ways, as different as beauty and deliciousness.

If a moral norm is a matter of taste, then "the action is good" and "the soup is good" are roughly equivalent statements; the "goodness" of both the action and the soup are subjective matters of taste, they simply reflect different kinds of tastes (one quasi-esthetic, one sensual). Far from being "worlds apart," both statements, in effect, mean the same thing: "this is pleasing to me."

JLNobody wrote:
How is Jesus' prescription a moral "rule"?

Because Jesus said that is how people should act (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31). If it were not a moral rule, he would not have phrased it as a command.

JLNobody wrote:
Did Kant argue that people should be treated as ends in themselves rather than as means to ends? And did Buber not argue that people should be seen as subjects (as we see ourselves) rather than objects (as we see things)? My recollection is vague on both counts. But Buber--if I'm right--does show both an influence from Jesus and from Kant. And maybe the Buddha.

I have never read anything by Martin Buber, but I suspect that if he said that people should be treated as subjects rather than objects, he was either quoting Kant or was influenced by him.
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JLNobody
 
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Reply Sat 5 Jun, 2004 05:19 pm
Joe, my reduction of moral judgement to "taste" is just a metaphor, as you are aware, I'm sure, for preference. Moral preferences may be that of an entire society (or at least the "official" preference of a society) or of an individual (even a social deviant). "This is pleasing to me" IS a valid description of my perspective. The actions of Nazis at Auswitz, were to me profoundly base and ugly. I do not have to refer to a Biblical commandment to reach that determination. Moreover, my actions, to the extent that they are moral, or, better, situationally ethical, reflect ME, my conditioned nature, not just a pattern of compliance with rules. The possible exception to this statement is that I MAY be often following rules unconsciously, just as I follow the rules of grammar without being aware of it. My behavior IS largely, if not exclusively (as Rufio would remind us) a function of my cultural conditioning. To repeat myself, when I am ethical I take credit for it as an expression of my character, not simply my passive compliance with rules. I prefer to create beauty not ugliness.
I can't find a bible in this house to check if Jesus's (alleged) utterances in Matthew and Luke were phrased as COMMANDMENTS or as RECOMMENDATIONS. But they could have been either, and, as such, been just as beneficial if followed.
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joefromchicago
 
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Reply Sun 6 Jun, 2004 06:47 pm
JLNobody wrote:
"This is pleasing to me" IS a valid description of my perspective.

Then you are not a moral relativist, that's for certain. Moral relativists, after all, actually believe there is something called "morality."
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JLNobody
 
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Reply Sun 6 Jun, 2004 06:54 pm
You may be right, Joe. I certainly am not a moralist, yet I try to be ethical. And to argue that all ethical decisions are made with reference to moral principles is problematical. The concreteness of situations in which ethical decisions must be made do not always or necessarily allow for the simple following of rules. One must often have to be "creative", remaking or reinterpreting the moral values of one's culture. To me these morals are frozen ethical decisions. Decisions that have been codified into very general precepts.
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qwertyportne
 
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Reply Sat 19 Jun, 2010 02:42 pm
My morality is relative, not absolute. The golden rule, for example, is pretty much the (absolute) standard in my culture. Ask 10 people on the street if they believe in the golden rule, and you'll get ten "Yes, of course I do." Only rarely will you hear "Not really." or "Sometimes." or "I prefer the silver rule."

The problem with using rules as a substitute for morality is that rules tend to prevent the situation from speaking to you. If a person's morality is based on rules, their behavior is an absolutist, knee-jerk reaction to every circumstance. We have all "inherited" a set of rules from our culture, of course, and many of them carry the wisdom of the ages, so to speak, but a creative response, in my opinion, is always "better" than a reactive, robotic, rule-oriented response, because creative responses are more likely to target behavior to a specific situation and are therefore more likely to be effective for all persons concerned than reactive behavior...

--Bill
JLNobody
 
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Reply Sat 19 Jun, 2010 04:09 pm
@qwertyportne,
Good points.
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